Food as a reward/punishment
My DH and I both have struggled with food/weight/body image issues. We both were raised with families that saw food=love. Also, the clean plate club, no X until you clean your plate.
We now have a beautiful and amazing 3 YO niece. (No, really) We don't have human kids, by choice.
DH has had a conversation with the dad and the nana about forcing/bribing said princess to eat.
How do we help this little one not have our issues?
Walk away. Just walk away.
As much as you love this child, this isn't your battle. I have an almost 3 year old. offer healthy foods, be very neutral on acceptance/rejection of them. Model healthy habits. Let her see you leave food on your plate, which is OKAY!
Let her see you as a contrast to her home situation. A healthy food relationship. As she grows let her approach you. Being hands off and friendly will help her trust you later when it matters more
Similarly, we don't have children (by choice) but have several nieces & nephews. We regard our job, as an uncle and aunt, as to be approachable & supportive to the kids but not to take sides if there is dispute with parents.
It's interesting how they have different attitudes to food which, we think, relates to where they were raised. Two grew up in America, with one of their siblings raised in the UK. Another nephew grew up in Spain. The Spanish one has always had more of an interest in food. When they used to visit us, he would come to the supermarket with us and we'd always say he could have anything he wanted. It was always something from the fishgmonger - usually whitebait, which he'd eat with ketchup. Through his teens, we'd periodically take him out for a meal , often to an "ethnic" restaurant (something his parents would never do). He'd always say that he didnt always enjoy his meal but it was always an interesting experience. I doubt he could pay us a greater compliment.
Proves the whole point of the book. The title could have been: Spanish or Italian or Greek or Portuguese kids.
We once had a young French farm girl visit for a couple of weeks. I will never forget the look of bewilderment/amusement/shock/sadness/embarrassment/distain that came over her face when we watched the customers in front of us at the check-out line putting their 'groceries' on the conveyor.
"They will eat this?". Hilarious.
I find that more and more teens (both male and female), children of our grown-up friends, are exhibiting eating disorders. It could be anorexia, bulimia, refusal to eat most things, etc. One boy actually developed scurvy-like symptoms because he only ate french fries and steak. Absolutely refused to eat anything else... For months on end.
When I ask the parents what they are doing about it, the usual answer is a shrug, and a "what can I do" attitude. Some parents say they have tried the "if you don't eat this, I'm not preparing you anything else" routine, and the kid inevitably doesn't eat, with the parent caving in after a day or two.
Not sure what the best way to go is. With my grandchildren, all I can is take a very matter-of-fact manner and expose them to a ton of stuff I know they don't get at home. They usually relish it, but if they don't want to try, that's ok too.
The ONLY input you may get to have is if the relatives ask you to take the niece in for "overnights". At this point you simply model good, healthy eating behaviors.
You could also offer to watch the kiddo when she gets slightly older and chaperone such activities as hiking/running/walking.